The country’s landscape is diverse, the people are friendly, the local food is cheap and delicious and the nightlife is incredible – there is absolutely no doubt that Israel is a wonderful backpacking destination. Whether you’re coming alone or in a group, check out these tips and come see for yourself!
Israel’s train is organized and clean, however very limited. It is great for travelling between large cities like Haifa, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv, but for shorter rides, you better count on buses. Another great option in Israel is using sherut taxis, which are basically minivans acting as shared taxis and running on regular bus routes from central bus stations. Sherut taxis can be hailed and you can be dropped off at any point along the route, which makes them more convenient and sometimes quicker than buses – and cheaper.
One of the most important things about hiking in Israel is Pakal Cafe, which translates to ‘Pkudat Keva Lachayal‘, everything a soldier must carry at all times. Of course, this is just an ironic use of the phrase, which is often used to describe something that is a staple. Pakal Cafe is a kit made up of a small gas stove, a tiny pot called ‘finjan’, some Turkish coffee, sugar, and of course, glasses. You will see many local hikers and tourists carrying these kits and searching the best spot for a coffee break.
While the fact that Israel is a sunny place is part of what makes it a perfect travel destination, you should always remember that there are some risks that come with the sun. Whenever you are travelling to the desert, the beach or even just walking around Tel Aviv, be prepared to apply some sunscreen to make sure you won’t become all pink and sunburnt for your whole trip.
Commonly known as ‘Shoresh’ sandals in Israel, source sandals, which can be seen worn by most hikers and backpackers around the country, are outdoor, trekking and hiking sandals favoured for their non-slip, water-resistant sole and typical patented x-strap-design.
Tel Aviv hostels
Tel Aviv is one of the coolest cities in the world with tons of cultural, art, food and nightlife options. In accordance, you can find an abundance of really cool hostels to spend the night, make new friends and just hang out. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to stay at one of the city’s hip, central hostels, not just for convenience but also to make new friends.
Plan around Shabbat
Don’t forget that Israel is a Jewish country, which means Shabbat hours may vary, especially from city to city, and especially when it comes to public transport, which is unavailable during Shabbat. In the Jewish areas of Jerusalem and several other religious neighbourhoods around the country, the streets can be completely numb with no cars, electricity or phones, while in Tel Aviv, restaurants and cafes around the city will be completely packed; so just make sure to plan ahead.
Masada at sunrise
The ancient fortification in the south of the country is one of Israel’s more famous hikes and it is especially known for its beautiful sunrises. When in Israel, opt to hike this path at dawn to witness its spectacular desert sunrise views – you’ll also avoid the beaming sun of the morning hours.
Always save room for hummus
Hummus in Israel is something you should always keep in the back of your mind. It can be had as a mid-day snack, during lunch, dinner, brunch – whatever. Always have some change in your pocket and some room in your stomach to wipe up some hummus with pita.
Sleep under the stars
Two very popular camping destinations in the country are the Judea Desert in the south and the Sea of Galilee in the north. Of course, there are many more options, but these two areas are full of camping grounds, most of them equipped with toilets, showers, BBQ stands and electrical outlets. During the night, you will be able to sleep under the stars, while in the morning, you will surely find a local to teach you how to make an amazing shakshuka.
Hitchhiking is not common in Israel at all. Although this is something that can be considered quite dangerous in many places around the world, in Israel, it is particularly advised against, so just try to avoid it and rely on public transport, bicycles in the city or even rent a car.